If you don’t know Verne Lundquist’s name, you certainly know his voice if you’re a fan of recent or historic golf.
It was Lundquist who unspooled the marvelous history in the making as Jack Nicklaus shocked the universe by winning the Masters in 1986 at age 46.
It was Lundquist who called the greatest shot of Tiger Woods’ epic career, the chip shot on No. 16 at the 2005 Masters that hung and hung and hung and dropped.
Now 76, Lundqist is retiring from calling collegiate football in the US next weekend after five decades on the air. His last call will be the traditional clash between the US Army and Navy service academy squads held in Philadelphia on December 10.
He wrote an op-ed piece about his career which appears in the current issue of Sports Illustrated, in which he announced he will continue to call March Madness -the NCAA’s men’s basketball tournament – along with The Masters in April and the PGA Championship in August for “as long as I’m physically able.”
It was during Nicklaus’ historic 1986 run to the Masters title that Lundquist’s “Yes, sir!” call became part of the vernacular of televised golf. On Saturday, Lundquist called his 25th and final SEC Championship game – won by Alabama over Florida. The game featured an in-house tribute to Lunquist featuring Nicklaus on the big screen who thanked the announcer for his service and repeated his fabled “Yes, Sir!” catch phrase.
The original video can be seen here; the call comes just after the 6:00 mark.
For the more recent generation, Lundquist’s call of Woods’ dramatic winner at the 2005 Masters is so perfectly videoed and called that it looks almost scripted. Of course, Lundquist had been calling the event for decades by that point and had seen Woods win multiple titles, allowing him to realize that something remarkable might be close at hand.
Lundqist and co-anchor Lanny Wadkins lingered on Woods for several moments before the shot, discussing strategy as Woods tried to figure a strategy from off the green.
“Here it comes!” Lundquist started as Woods slipped the ball onto the green, where it began rolling down towards the hole. “Oh my goodness. OH WOW!” Lundquist went from announcer to pure marveling fan at this moment, when Woods’ ball rolled to the pin, touched the flag pole gently, then with the Nike logo coming full force into view, rotted just a tad more and fell into the hole for birdie. “In your life have you seen anything like that?”
Woods was six strokes behind Chris DiMarco at the halfway point and four strokes behind him through 54 holes. He raced past him in the final round and the birdie on 15 put him up two strokes, but he bogeyed 17 and 18 to allow DiMarco to force a playoff.
Woods birdied the first hole to win his fourth green jacket.
Perhaps the only thing Lundquist has done more famous than those two calls was his appearance in Adam Sandler’s irreverent 1990s golf comedy “Happy Gilmore” playing himself., uttering the famous lines “What a shot by Happy Gilmore! Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?”